My Life in Maps

In honor of my Skillshare Map Making class that starts tomorrow I thought I’d take today to put together a special post. I’ve been overjoyed by the outpouring of support around the internet, and at time of writing this post I already had more than 350 students – bloggers, photographers, illustrators, designers, community managers, magazine contributors, and genuinely awesome people – from 21 countries, on all 5 continents! While class doesn’t officially start until Tuesday, the energy in the online classroom is contagious, and it’s been amazing learning about my students + the fantastic maps they have planned. Also, as a final reminder, I know what it’s like to juggle a lot of things in life, so I kept busy/real lives in mind when designing the class. The lectures are broken up into small segments that you can watch when you have time, and the even when the class is over you’ll still have access. (It took Ashley + I two months to finish our video for another Skillshare class we took!).

I was lucky to grow up in a well traveled family, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved maps. Our house was littered with old issues of National Geographic, and each issue always came with a map, and smaller maps were always used to tell the story of the place. In 8th grade, my World Geography teacher gave us a test once where we had to draw the world from memory. There was a giant map in the front of the class for reference, but going up to look at it took away time from us and our piece of blank paper (we had to include details of many kinds: 1 isthmus, 1 mountain, 1 capital, etc.). It was intense, but also the best – and most memorable – test I ever took. Then for extra credit when days we finished ahead of schedule he’d toss around an inflatable globe that we’d toss around until someone had it and our teacher would name a super unknown place and we’d have 2 minutes to find it. Needless to say, I’d go home and study the globe most nights in preparation for my turn. Now, when I go home to visit my parents I still turn to my dad for a trusty hand drawn map rather than opting for GPS.

{Map above: My life in maps depicts everywhere I’ve lived up until now. It’s funny to see there are a few reoccurring places. Click to enlarge.}

I am by no means an artist/painter, and this map of “Places I’ve Been” is a bit outdated now (I have been to 30+ countries), but I made it as part of a map workshop at MICA several years ago. It was the perfect excuse to try something new. In terms of my favorite travel places, you can find many of them mapped on Everplaces.

— Anne Ditmeyer (@pretavoyager) February 17, 2013

I first discovered this paper globe thanks to Judith aka You can download your own “Le Paper Globe” by Joachim Robert. (Note, it took me ~3 hours but was a fun distraction from the computer and a nice hands-on project). I then used paint dabs to chart our 2002 voyage around the world on Semester at Sea. (Our route was Bahamas, Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Seattle!). To top it off I made a 6 second Vine on my phone that you see above (it’s even better with the sound on!).

If you read my blog, chances are you’ve seen this map several times now. I made it as part of my ‘Tour de France: Paris‘ series where I invited local bloggers to show us their arrondissement (district). For each individual post I colored the specific arrondissement.

I also love hand drawn + imperfect maps. One night at a party I was talking with a Spanish friend who has lived in Paris for 4 years, but said he didn’t really understand the city. So, I drew him a map from memory. The next day I compared it to a real map – some areas in the east of Paris were a bit off, but overall, I got my point across: Paris is a snail divided into 20 districts.

Afficher We Are Here – Skillshare Map Making sur une carte plus grande

Finally, this is an updated version of the interactive map from when I first posted it, depicting all the places the students in my class live around the world. Isn’t online learning awesome!?! (There would be even more dots if it included the wide range of places people are from).

Oh, and I’ve decided this should be the theme song for my class!

P.S. New BOARDING PASS later this week!


    • It really was fun. He had an alternative way of teaching that definitely stuck with me! …. At the end of the year there was also the “Great Jelly Bean Race” – which was a race around the school using chopsticks to hold jelly beans! Talk about an atypical way of teaching 8th graders to use chopsticks + appreciate another culture. SO much better than those other classes that only taught to standardized tests (which I was so bad at, despite being a top student).

    • Thanks, Jérémy! It’s a fun challenge to see how you can use these tools in creative ways. . . . The globe is great too! There is an entire structure inside too for support!

    • Yeah! Pretty awesome… Had to write a paper with Tyler (who went on to win the Amazing Race several years ago with another fellow shipmate!)

  • What a fantastic post to get us into the swing of things for your imminent Map Making Class…. I’m soo excited that I can’t choose the subject (could do it on so many)

    You are a very inspirational woman and it will be an honour to be taught by you!

    Great globe, great Vine clip and here’s to MAPS (in all their shapes and forms)

  • i <3 maps so much! tho i have to say, i take a teensy bit of offense to that Maryland map, since i grew up under the "mary" part and it does not look so much like a wooden gun in reality! i'll accept that maybe it had to be squared to fit the type… ;P

    • Hi Kate! I did this in illustrator + think the points accidentally got shifted when I was moving it into place. I plan on updating it, but haven’t had a chance yet. Consider it a quiz to see who actually knows their geography. You get an A ;)

  • Thanks for sharing! I just heard about your class today, and it looks amazing . Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d be able to fully participate well if I enrolled this time around (scheduling issues). Do you think you’ll offer it again anytime in the future?

    • Elizabeth, please do join. TBD if there will be a repeat. It’s made to be flexible and you’ll have access even when it’s over :)

  • So happy to have read about your class and just signed up! I make my living painting over maps, but now I’m excited to make my own. I’ve also been doing map projects with my four year old where we draw maps from memory – so easy for kids to connect to them. Thanks much and looking forward to the course!

    • So happy to have you in class! Love how you’re working with maps with your 4-year-old. I gave a Paris tour and realized how much I pointed out the maps as a way to help people get oriented to the city.

  • February 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm // Reply

    Hey, Anne: Would you mind sharing where you got the vector (I’m assuming they’re vector) state/country outlines? I can never seem to find good ones. Or did you trace those/the ship/the arrondissements yourself? Thanks :)

    • Nicholas, I actually “drew” them myself. Aka I found a good enough google image with contrast and then used live trace in Illustrator. For the ship I used the pen tool…. There is a state font I shared in the class resources + there’s a good pugly pixel tutorial on how to make silhouettes!

  • Hi Anne, your map of where you lived gave me an idea for my project on the skillshare class. I’ve been looking for a fresh way to look at my resume for myself. Mapping the company brands and or the locations and something else may be a good way to break it loose Harlem shake style. Thanks for the inspiration! Jennifer

    • Happy to help inspire, Jennifer. I like the idea of a fresh approach to your resume. Would love to see what you come up with when you’re done :)

  • Anne, Thank you for the fabulous map-making course. I learned a lot and came away inspired. If I make it to Paris, I will want one of your tours. I just found Ina Caro’s book, “Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train,” which has reignited my wish to get to Paris soon. À bientôt.

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